18-Month-Old Baby Survives Two Fatal Birth Defects

By Staff Reporter - 01 Jul '19 16:40PM

An 18-month-old baby has survived two rare birth defects after undergoing life-saving surgeries. The girl, named Adelyn Swain, is now expected to live a normal life with no restrictions on her physical activities.

There are more than 4,000 types of birth defects. Adelyn was born with two unique congenital malformities when she was born. Her surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Halter of Maine Medical Center, said he never encountered a patient who suffered from both of the unrelated conditions: congenital pulmonary airway malformation and gastroschisis.

Gastroschisis is a birth defect that affects the abdominal wall. In Adelyn's case, her intestines were formed outside of her body because of hole next to her belly button. Sometimes, other organs, such as the liver and stomach, can form outside of the body.

The condition affects one in every 2,000 births. The cause remains unknown. Babies born with gastroschisis must undergo immediate surgery to prevent the organs from twisting, swelling and shortening.

Forty years ago, gastroschisis occurred once in every 10,000 births. Scientists are still unsure of why the condition is more prevalent, but research is ongoing.

Congenital pulmonary airway malformation is a life-threatening birth defect that requires the removal of the lower left lobe of the lung. The rare condition occurs when the baby develops a cystic mass of abnormal lung tissue.

Doctors used video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) to remove the lower lobe of her lung. Surgeons also used the sutureless closure technique when repairing her abdominal opening. Both procedures were the first of their kind.

Doctors say that Adelyn's lung will grow over time and replace the missing lobe, which will allow her to enjoy a normal childhood without respiratory concerns. She will still be required to undergo future surgeries and procedures that are less invasive.

Forty years ago, a child born with Adelyn's birth defects likely would have died. Advancements in procedures and technology have led to good survival rates for both conditions.

Adelyn's mother learned of the birth defects when she was 14 weeks pregnant after doctors examined her ultrasound.

While Adelyn's case brings hope to families, experts do caution that many babies who survive gastroschisis surgery suffer complications later in life, including life-threatening gastrointestinal conditions.

The cause of gastroschisis is unknown, but it is speculated that reasons may be environmental, such as pesticide exposure, or the use of anti-depressant medications. However, the evidence is still thin and more research is needed.

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